Category Archives: Collaborative Organizations

Collaborative  organizations are those developing a wide variety of approaches to creating more democratic and sociocratic workplaces. Many practices are entirely congruent with sociocracy for which other names and rationales are used. They are worth a look.

Self-Management at Zappos

Zappos Logo Several articles have appeared in the last month or so on the implementation of  self-management at Zappos. After having adopted Holacracy, which is based on the principles of sociocracy, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, sent a memo on 24 March 2015 to employees offering three months of salary to any employee who would read a book on Holacracy and quit if they were still not happy in an organization based on self-management.

It was a long complex memo, and not a simple command to “self-organize or leave” as it has been portrayed. Hsieh said:

Our main objective is not just to do Holacracy well, but to make Zappos a fully self-organized, self-managed organization by combining a variety of different tools and processes.

The full email/memo is on the Quartz site.

Zappos has regularly paid new employees if they decided the new job wasn’t for them and quit in the first month or so. But for this offer 14% of Zappos employees, 210 people, quit. Undoubtedly many were planning to leave for other reasons,  like the move in 2013 to downtown Las Vegas. This was just a convenient time to leave. Thus far there hasn’t been an analysis published on why the employees left. It may well have been poor implementation and confusion, not the expectations to self-manage and self-organize.

And we also don’t know why the 86% of Zappos employees stayed. It may also have nothing to do with liking the new system.

Why Self-Organizing and Self-Management Are So Hard

Why Self-Organizing is So Hard is a blog post by Bud Caddell, a founding member of the NOBL Collective. NOBL is a consulting network that works with organizations to empower “the creativity and capability required for a world of constant change.” They work to “to re-align teams, refocus products, and re-imagine work for the 21st century.” Caddell has worked in an organization using Holacracy and NOBL uses elements of sociocracy, Holacracy, and other self-governing methods in their work.

 

Caddell’s analysis compares Holacracy to a game of Dungeons and Dragons:

Holacracy, itself, is too complex, dogmatic, and rigid. It feels like playing a game of Management Dungeons and Dragons. Everything you already understand about working in teams is reinvented with confusing language (e.g. circles, tensions, IDM, etc.) and a confusing process. Because of this frustration, some companies are trying to pioneer a cognitively slimmed down version. Blinkist, for example, calls theirs Holacracy Lite.

The same can be said of sociocracy when people begin emphasizing structure before purpose, playing the language card—go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200—when someone says agree instead of consent. Or insisting on the distinction between a top circle and a board of directors. It diverts the emphasis from “a more humane way of organizing” to “the right  way.” As if the right language will produce accomplishment of the purpose.

Unless the right word means the accurate and commonly understood word that conveys meaning naturally, it is an impediment to those who are trying to get their work done.

Too often, right means “our word or your word but only in the way we define it.”

Ordered or Programmed?

It’s a thin line between order and homogenization.

An organization isn’t an operating system. It is like an operating system in that all the parts need to work together without conflict so they all contribute to  achieving the same purpose. That doesn’t make people plug-ins for a software program. A big difference.

The Place to Start

Caddell has four recommendations for the implementation of   governance methods based on self-organization:

  1. Focus on self-management first.
  2. Adapt your own model.
  3. Dedicate a Complexity Reduction Officer (CRO).
  4. Tell more human stories.

The last recommendation is a nice one. In the articles on Hsieh’s so-called command to self-organize and the people who left, there are no personal stories from the people who left and those who stayed. Maybe that comes next.

More articles related to self-organization and management:

Internal Memo: Zappos is offering severance to employees who aren’t all in with Holacracy by Aimee Groth on the Quartz website. Includes the full text of the memo asking that employees “take 30 minutes” to read it.

Inside Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s radical management experiment that prompted 14% of employees to quit by Richard Feloni on the Business Insider UK website. A history of Zappos unique company culture which is atypical to say the least, and the story of its adoption of Holacracy. A long article on the historical context of Hsieh’s leadership.

Is Holacracy Succeeding At Zappos? by Steve Denning on the Forbes  website. An excellent discussion of the contradictions in the implementation of Holacracy given the difficult language of the constitution and the many, sometimes contradictory premises. One being the ability of the CEO to take back his power as a CEO Includes links to several other articles.

At Zappos, Banishing the Bosses Brings Confusion by Rachel Emma Silverman on the Wall Street Journal website. I wasn’t able to read this because I don’t have a subscription but it begins with a story from the personal experience of an employee at Zappos so it may be promising. (With all my software programs and online journals going to monthly subscriptions, my budget is blowing in the wind.)

A Sociocratic Movement?

I sat in on a conference call with the SociocraticConsultingGroup-en last week on forming an organization for sociocracy. I found the discussion to be about the same issues we had several years ago, when Socionet tried to form. It’s the same problem that the NVC organization has had, and that the Austin Belly dance group discussed on the [email protected] list many years ago. The problem of conflicting aims and energies between professionals and enthusiasts.

The problem appears when trying to build an organization that can’t decide if it is promoting sociocracy for all or promoting professional consultants. The energy now is largely in the consultants. This is because the people who most see the need and opportunity often are consultants already or become consultants. That’s good because they can train people who will be most likely to apply the method in their organizations.

A Peer-to-Peer Sociocratic Movement

I’ve never seen mixing of professionals and enthusiasts work in one organization to serve everyone’s needs. It can’t be built around classes, mostly because enthusiasts and sociocrats don’t want to join an organization in order to be marketed to. But it is also because professionals have different needs. They need to ask questions at a more complex level than people who are just learning about sociocracy. They need to discuss professional issues relating to the implementation in situations that they may need to discuss confidentially. They need to ask questions related to building their practices as sociocratic professionals.

The general population may want classes but they also want peer-to-peer interactions and information in a different form. Written materials and tapes. DVDs. Ideas and experiences to discuss with each other, not in teacher-student interactions. Enthusiasts will pull away from professionals and professionals pull away from them.

Ironically, the sociocratic organization has not managed to produce equality in sociocracy.

Discouraging a Sociocratic Movement

The global organization has been supremely afraid of letting the method go viral and still has not released its norms. The fear is that the method will be badly applied by anyone except certified experts and thus reflect negatively on sociocracy.

Professionals have also not encouraged a movement of enthusiasts to form. One negative reaction from professionals to people seeking information and association as other than clients is that such people are asking them to work free. That kind of attitude will dampen any movement. A movement needs the support of experts, but enthusiasts want to join an organization of equals who share information and experiences freely.

What Associations Do

Associations are usually non-profit, dedicated to charitable and public service purposes. They form around a purpose and draw members in to help them accomplish their purpose. They may maintain a speakers bureau that will speak anywhere for low or now cost. They distribute flyers to the public at no cost. Generate books and other materials that can be purchased. Members receive benefits to encourage them to further the purpose, usually a discount on publications, invitations to meetings of various kinds, and a newsletter.

Public Dissemination of Ideas

Business people and government officials have informal groups that meet for lunch and have a speaker. Sometimes the speakers receive an honorarium and sometimes only a free lunch. If the roundtable is for business people, sometimes a gift or gift certificate donated by one of the members. These are networking lunches of highly committed and ambitious people.

How many people have been prepared to speak at such a gathering about sociocracy? What resources are available to help them do so? Outlines and public speaking guides.

When Tony Robbins was beginning his career, he spoke anywhere. Other speakers would only speak to certain groups or if they were paid. Because Robbins accepted any request he spoke several times a week. He was able to hone his message and understand his audience. This is one thing that Malcolm Gladwell discusses in The Tipping Point: that success depends on the frequency of performing, speaking, running, etc., usually from a young age.

Bill Gates had access as a teenager to computers and programming. Access others didn’t have. The Beatles were performing on a circuit for years before they became famous. When Tony Robbins developed his motivational speaking skills, he was working as a janitor and , if I remember correctly, took the opportunity to discuss ideas with the executives whose office he cleaned.

Leadership

Movements also need leaders. Extroverts who love talking to people and being out front. The skills that make good politicians. I don’t think such a person has surfaced in the sociocratic community. Possibly because such a person doesn’t fit in with the global organization which is fairly rigid and closed. The new website is a huge step forward but has been years in the making. The current version has been under consideration for over a  year.

While a leader needs to understand the method, the requirement that they be certified is counter-productive and anti-movement unless the purpose is to organize certified people.

A sociocratic movement will not be successful until the needs of professionals as consultants are separated from those of enthusiasts and practitioners, and a leader emerges.

Rainbow Community School, Asheville, NC

Logo Rainbow Community SchoolRainbow Community School is a private, independent school serving 42 preschoolers and about 120 students from kindergarten through eighth grade in Asheville, North Carolina. For more than 35 years, we have been a national leader in alternative, holistic and contemplative education.

The essay by Renee Owen, “Educating the Innovation Generation, Part IV, How Can School Create and Innovative Culture” discusses the school’s reasons for using sociocracy (Dynamic Governance).

Rainbow Community School, Asheville, NC

Logo Rainbow Community SchoolA hierarchy is very efficient. For example, during a crisis, a leader can issue life-saving orders; but it comes with inherent problems. In addition to the equitability issues involved with a hierarchical structure, innovative ideas from the bottom of the hierarchy don’t make their way to the top, creating stagnation. On the other hand, a grassroots approach, where all individuals have equal voice and power, creates a lot of great ideas, but typically lacks the efficiency to be highly productive; especially in a school where teachers can end up with overwhelming administrative responsibilities and “political” concerns in addition to their classroom duties. Dynamic Governance is a sophisticated “both/and” approach to structuring an organization. It makes appropriate use of the efficiency of a hierarchy, yet at specific times the hierarchy dissolves and everyone has an equal voice for making decisions by consent. Dynamic Governance, if instituted adeptly, melts toxicity, and gives everyone the motivation, power, and tools to be highly innovative and productive. It’s truly the best of both worlds.

Renee Owen, Educating the Innovation Generation, Part IV: how Can Schools Create an Innovative Culture. 13 March 2014. Renee Owen is Executive Director of The Rainbow Community School in Asheville, North Carolina, (Formerly the Mountain School, established in 1977). Rainbow emphasizes Seven Domains: Spiritual, Mental, Creative, Emotional, Social, Natural, and Physical which represent the colors of the rainbow.

Family HEART Camp

Family HEART CampFamily HEART Camp is a sociocratically governed summer camp for families with children of all ages. Camps are conducted in West Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado, Ohio, and Hawaii. The Executive Director is Circle Sigma System founder Gregory Rouillard.

HEART stands for Harmony, Ease, Authenticity, Respect, and Trust, important family values that Compassionate Communication supports us in living, both at camp and in the wider world.

More on HEART Camp’s vision and values.

Storm Integrated Solutions, US

Logo for Storm Integrated SolutionsStorm Integrated Solutions provides organizational governance solutions to communities, voluntary organizations, government agencies, non-profits, and small businesses. The principal is Gregory Rouillard who developed the Circle Sigma System. Based on Boulder, Colorado, they work with clients in other locations.

Our primary transformational framework is The Circle Sigma System, an integrated application of the Sociocratic Circle-Organization Method, Compassionate Communication, and Restorative Circles. We offer the following services:

  • Public workshops and training events
  • Telephonic and web-based trainings
  • On-site trainings tailored to your organization
  • Ongoing consultation and support in implementing transformational practices in your organization
  • Professional facilitation of any group meeting or process
  • Public speaking at local events

Citizen Hive: Description of Sociocracy

Citizen Hive is a NGO in Sweden Using Sociocracy

From the Citizen Hive website on sociocratic governance and why the organization uses it:

Citizen Hive uses Sociocracy as our governance system.

What is Sociocracy?

Sociocracy is a holistic approach for inclusive decision-making, efficient governance, and the ongoing evaluation and improvement of your team, project, or organization.
It fosters empowerment and an attitude where people feel encouraged to experiment, fail, and learn.

Other benefits of sociocracy:

  • Fosters more trust
  • Encourages individuals to be accountable to the group´s agreements, relative to available energy and resources.
  • Helps users evaluate what they do, identify their strengths and growing edges, and apply what they’ve learned to future projects and collaborations.
  • Focuses on solutions and helps transform potentially painful disagreements into creative opportunities that benefit the whole group.

Why is Citizen Hive using a sociocratic governance system?

Citizen Hive has chosen this as our governance system because we want transparency and equivalence in our organization. We believe in self leadership and self governance as means for creating sustainable values to society as within Citizen Hive.Sociocracy is a social technology for purposeful organization. It radically changes how an organization is structured, how decisions are made, and how power is distributed through a set of “rules of the game” that bake empowerment into the core of the organization. Unlike conventional top-down or progressive bottom-up approaches, it integrates the benefits of both without relying on parental heroic leaders. Everyone becomes a leader of their roles and a follower of others’, processing tensions with real authority and real responsibility, through dynamic governance and transparent operations.Citizen Hive is facilitating the meeting of a diverse group of people, to start new cooperation projects, and to spark bright ideas. With Sociocracy as a neutral governance system, we believe more fun, sound, and sustainable projects can occur, where the individual sovereignty is maintained.

From the Governance page of Citizen Hive. Accessed 29 March 2014.

Sociocracy Consulting Group

The Sociocracy Consulting Group, LLC, is an international consulting firm formed in 2013 by several certified consultants including John Buck, the first sociocracy consultant in the United States. It is  a division of the Global Sociocracy Group, with head offices in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

We are a team of passionate believers in equivalence, effectiveness, and transparency. We combine a diversity of backgrounds with a common vision, mission, and aim.

Clients choose us time and again because

  • Their staff becomes more engaged
  • Leaders’ jobs become easier
  • Their financial well-being improves

We create long-term sustainable partnerships with our clients as we help organizations adopt Dynamic Governance as their decision-making and governance method.

Our portfolio of clients is well diversified and includes organizations of all types—from manufacturers to drug researchers; from government agencies to religious groups; from nonprofit associations and schools to cohousing communities and families.

Burlington Cohousing East Village, Burlington, Vermont

Burlington Cohousing East Village, Burlington, Vermont
Burlington Cohousing East Village, Burlington, Vermont

Burlington Cohousing East Village adopted sociocracy in 2013. About their community from their website:

Mission

The mission of Burlington Cohousing East Village is to sustain our community strengths and to create and share better ways to live as neighbors – towards a way of living that welcomes diversity and fosters social connection, affordable living, environmental stewardship, and a smaller ecological footprint.

Values

Contributing to this mission are the following values:

  • We participate in the urban advantages of living in Burlington – cultural, pedestrian, biking, shared car trips, public transit.
  • We support commitment, innovation and personal courage.
  • We aim to make a positive difference in the lives of all.
  • We encourage the development of leadership and group facilitation skills.
  • We promote involvement with the larger community.
  • We practice self-governance with a modified consensus decision-making process.
  • We provide regular common meals which include food grown from our own lands.
  • We gather frequently for mutual appreciation and celebrations.
  • We are committed to non-violent communication and conflict resolution.

The Community

We’re Vermont’s only urban cohousing community; urban in the sense that we’re right across the street from the University of Vermont and Fletcher Allen Health Care, and about a mile from downtown Burlington. On the other hand, we’re also right next to Centennial Woods, a 68-acre nature preserve. And, as this is Vermont, we’re within easy reach of a wide variety of outdoor recreational opportunities – Lake Champlain, the Green Mountains, the Adirondack Mountains, etc. Our 32 homes and common house are located on 4½ acres of land, out of which more than 3 acres is open space, woods, and gardens.

Our homes are a mix of one, two and three-bedroom apartments, two and three-bedroom townhouses, and two single-family homes. We share a large common house that includes a living room, kitchen for preparing shared meals, dining room with outdoor terrace, a large roof deck, guest rooms, multipurpose room, laundry room, and mailroom.

Most of our buildings have flat roofs to minimize visual impact and to facilitate the installation of photovoltaics.
By January of 2011, 113 rooftop photovoltaic panels had been added. By the fall of 2012, an additional 48 panels were installed.

Burlington Cohousing is legally structured like a condominium. Each household owns the interior of their unit, but also collectively owns the common elements including the common house, the roofs, outside walls, and structural components of the buildings, as well as the land. The common elements are managed by the residents, through the homeowners association. The legal documents for the community include the Declaration of Condominium and the By-Laws.

We have two solar photovoltaic arrays. You can see the information we receive on how much power they generate by visiting: Enlighten (powers the indoor common spaces) and Enlighten Public Systems (powers the unit owners who installed their own panels). Click on the Reports tab.

There is much more information about the community, their environment, and cohousing on the community website. 

L’École Internationale des Chefs, Longueuil, Québec

L'Ecole des Chefs Logo

L’École Internationale des Chefs, the international school for leaders, training in sociocratic principles and methods. How to guide other individuals, groups, and organizations, and manage a communication and decision-making structure that promotes the development of individuals and the organization in respect of the environment. Leadership training and listening. Also provides ongoing professional training groups to help maintain a culture of practice in sociocracy.

L’École Internationale des Chefs Website

Sociogest, Longueuil and Lac Simon, Québec, Canada

Sociogest Logo

Sociogest is one of the oldest sociocracy consulting firms, specializing in management training and organizational development. It was started by Gilles Charest, a consultant with 40 years of organizational development experience, who also melds his training in Gestalt psychology with sociocracy to teach leadership skills. The firm has an international network of consultants in French-speaking countries, the United States, and Holland.

De School, Zandvoort, The Netherlands

De School LogoDe School in The Netherlands was founded using the sociocratic organization method under the guidance of Annewiek Reijmer of the global center, the Sociocratisch Centrum.

The school has become famous in Holland because it offers a 50-week school year in order to meet parents needs for childcare as well as education for their children. The children, as young as six, work with the parents, the teacher, and an outside expert to evaluate the student’s progress and set goals for the next study period. The school is committed to meeting national standards for education. Within that, the team consents to educational goals.

Children meet in classroom circles to discuss classroom conduct, problems, and solutions, and make other policy decisions including spending the budget for toys, books, etc.

De School’s Website

Aptivate Adopts Sociocracy

Changing the World by Changing the Way We Make Decisions

Sociocracy, participatory decision-making creates systems that allow people to express full potential, says consultant

Monday August 08, 2011 — Camille Jensen,  AxiomNews

While there are countless ways to better the world, Decision Lab facilitator Nathanial Whitestone says changing how we make decisions is the most critical and profound change we could make.

Co-founding Decision Lab one year ago, Whitestone says the U.K.-based organization aims to accelerate better decision-making in organizations by introducing models that encourage participatory decision-making and improved communication flows.

“At every point we are able to fix things technologically,” says Whitestone. “The key for me is every person having control over the way they work . . . . You can’t fully express yourself, fully express the gifts you have in life, if you don’t have input on the design of how you express them.”

To transform companies into models that encourage broader decision-making and ownership over one’s work, Whitestone says it’s essential to create a governance system defined by key principles that hard-wires process into an organization so if there are changes in management, the model doesn’t evaporate.

A model Whitestone has seen work with small and large companies alike is sociocracy, also known as dynamic governance. Based on four principles, the model involves consent-based decision-making among circles, which act as semi-autonomous policy making and working groups comprised of departments or teams.

Each circle has its own aim and directs its work by performing all the functions of leading, doing and measuring its operations. The circles share at least two members; an operational leader from an upper circle and a representative from a lower circle to ensure greater feedback and self regulation.

Whitestone says a powerful testament to sociocracy — it’s also the model used to govern Decision Lab — came when working with the organization Aptivate. The innovative and values-based organization that provides IT and participatory services for international development had slipped into the habit of decision-making by endurance, where board members stayed up late arguing about the best way forward. Any Aptivate board member not interested in a late night failed to have their voice heard.

The approach was resulting in exhausted board members, a lack of people wanting to serve on the board and declining staff engagement.

Working with Decision Lab, Aptivate began to implement sociocratic design to introduce formal decision-making processes based on consensus. Within three years, the company embraced a culture where everyone’s voices are heard, meetings end on time and, most importantly, people want to participate in board-level decision-making.

When some of Aptivate’s most experienced managers left for positions at prominent development organizations like the World Bank and the International Aid Transparency Initiative, the team used its well-structured participatory decision-making process to collaborate effectively, learn necessary business skills and develop new work. Describing Aptivate’s response as powerful, Whitestone commends the company for turning a loss into an opportunity.

“Six months after that happened the biggest problem was fitting all the work into their schedule and hiring quality people fast enough,” he says.

Whitestone says he’s seeing increasing uptake in organizational models like sociocracy and workplace democracy, demonstrating valuable new ways to organize. Combined with the development of broader community collaboration, like crowdsourcing, gives Whitestone hope that large-scale social change is possible.

“It makes it really clear that top down is not the only way,” he says. “I genuinely do believe that’s the biggest lever that needs to be pulled. That just needs to happen, everywhere.”


If you have feedback on this article, please contact the newsroom at 800-294-0051 or e-mail camille(at)axiomnews.ca.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Aptivate, Cambridge, England, UK

“Ethical IT for International Development”

Aptivate company logoWebsite and software developers providing technical  support for international development initiatives by other non-profits, charities, NGOs, facilitators, and trainers. Aptivate provides hosting services and advice on strategy, policy, implementation and procurement and build robust, accessible and usable software, mobile and web services. Specializes in low-bandwidth solutions for the web .

Mission

Aptivate believes in the power of knowledge and communication to alleviate poverty, suffering and conflict, and in the right of every individual to inform and be informed.

We are dedicated to developing ICT services that facilitate communication for unconnected communities, empowering ordinary people across the developing world to improve their lives.

Policy Statements

Our Ethical Policy
Aptivate’s ethical policy exists to ensure we stay true to our mission. Every project we undertake should help us achieve our goals. Sometimes it is necessary to turn down a project or proposal because we feel that it does not fit into our ethical framework or does not advance our mission. We evaluate proposals against our ethical policy, and our staff collectively decide on whether the organisation should pursue them.

Our Environmental Policy
Climate change already affects the livelihoods of many people across the developing world, often the poorest and most vulnerable. Organisations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have called for significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and other polluting activities to avert potentially catastrophic consequences.

We believe that climate change must be considered when evaluating activities related to development. While most human activities involve some level of environmental impact, it is necessary to consider this against the perceived benefits of an activity, reduce impact where possible and find alternatives if necessary.

We are committed to reduce our own environmental impact by:

  • using alternatives to travel, such as conferencing technology;
  • using alternative means of transport to short-haul flights;
  • shutting down IT systems when not in use;
  • investigating ways to mitigate the pollution generated by the manufacture, running and disposal of IT equipment;
  • recycling or re-using all possible office consumables;
  • engaging with other organisations on the issue of climate change.

Nathaniel Whitestone of Decision Lab transformed their “decision-making by endurance” in which those how couldn’t last all night had no voice by implementing over a three year period a sociocratic design with formal processes and decentralized power.

Changing the World by Changing the Way We Make Decisions“, AxiomNews. Accessed 8 Aug 2011. Features an interview with Nathan Whitestone of Decision Lab.

Maverick by Riccardo Semler

This is a wonderful little book by the CEO of Semco, a corporation in Brazil. His father started the company and in 1980s passed it along to his rather young son who built a new kind of corporation using “open management” and advocating a “natural” and “democratic” workplace for “industrial citizens.”

In 1984, Semco acquired a Brazilian subsidiary of Hobart and Semler describes how he began changing the structure of management. It began with lunch hour talks between the managers and workers that convinced the managers the workers should be more involved in decisions about their jobs, the products they made, and their work environment. The women, for example, led a coup that not only got the smelly men’s locker room cleaned up but led to new lockers and the conversion of unused production space to a game room used at lunch and on breaks. Plants appeared on the shop floor the way they appeared in personal offices. Workers began to paint the shop, each worker choosing the color of the column nearest their station.

They formed a cafeteria committee to improve the world’s worst food “outside an institution without bars.” Then they changed the company policy of paying 70% of the cost of lunches to a sliding scale with top management paying 95% and the lowest paid floor sweepers paying only 5%. Workers share 22% of the profits.

From dirty lockers, plants, paint, and lunch subsidies, workers formed committees and began looking at production and products improving processes, safety, and economics as they developed new products, techniques, and finishes. All worker initiated, often on their own time. Semler says the strength of the groups was their diversity: factory workers, engineers, office clerks, sales reps, and executives. The leaders were chosen by the committees based on their capacity to lead — calling meetings and leading discussions.

The workers themselves established and posted scoreboards above the factory floor to keep track of daily production for each product. When their self-determined quotas were in danger because parts had not been delivered the workers travelled to the suppliers to pick up supplies and worked through the night to finish before the end of the month.

Maverick is filled with such stories in which the workers are empowered and once empowered increased production by developing better processes and increased sales and profits by designing better products. All are inspiring and useful in making arguments for changing your workplace. This book was an all time best seller in Brazil when it was published there in 1988 as Turning the Tables. Semler was then 34. This is not a book about business; it is a book about work.

Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace by Ricardo Semler. NY: Tableturn, 1990. Buy the paperback from 1995 at Amazon

The later and similar book is The Seven-Day Weekend: Changing the Way We Work published in 2004 when he was a visiting scholar at Harvard. This book is less specific in giving examples and more motivational, encouraging people to think the way Semco management thinks in order to find the best solutions for their organization. In the end, I find this approach to be less useful. Feels good but what do I do on Monday morning? Available Used at Amazon

Terra Viva, São Paulo, Brazil

Terra Viva is an agribusiness centered in São Paulo, Brazil begin by the Schoenmaker family in 1959 to grow gladiolas. Though not mentioned on their website, Gerard Endenburg consulted with the owner in the 1970s to develop the company using sociocracy. They now have more than a thousand workers and focus on bulbs and plants for flowers and vegetables.

Their website includes a discussion of the company’s philosophy including an organizational chart, but does not mention sociocracy or Endenburg.

A good research topic.

The Sociocracy Group

The Sociocratisch Centrum was founded by Gerard Endenburg who developed the Sociocratic Circle-Organization Method.

In 2014, it reorganized and became The Sociocracy Group (TSG) to distinguish itself as an international  consulting firm with affiliates in many countries.  The Sociocracy Group serves as a professional association for certified facilitators, trainers, and consultants, and oversees the Certification of Sociocratic Experts worldwide.

The standards, norms, and certification process are posted on the site. Along with an international list of Certified Experts by country. Annewiek Reijmer is now the General Manager.

From the website:

The Sociocracy Group is an organization that promotes sociocracy as a method of governance for all facets of global society. It is legally organized in The Netherlands and headquartered in Rotterdam.
Sociocracy enables people to live and work together as different, unique persons through dynamic structures and mutual equivalency in decision-making.
The Sociocracy Group adds the sociocratic circle-organization method (SCM) to global society by guiding regional TSG offices and providing a corps of certified sociocratic experts using the sociocratic norms.

To contact the TSG, email the General Manager: Annewiek Reijmer.

Asheville Movement Collective, North Carolina, US

Asheville Movement Collective logoThe Asheville Movement Collective began transitioning to sociocracy in 2010 after working with John Buck. Their vision, mission, aim:

VISION: A world that moves in harmony where all are free to be their authentic selves within a loving community.

MISSION: Inspiring authenticity and healthy community through free-form dance

AIM: Hosting dance waves for personal and community transformation

Summary of sociocracy as they use it and diagrams of their organizational structure:

Asheville Movement Collective Self-Governance System

School of Media, Culture, and Design, Woodbury University, US

Main hall of School of Media, Culture, and DesignThe School of Media, Culture, and Design, Woodbury University in Burbank, California, a few miles from Los Angeles, consists of five departments that are well-integrated with the large media industry in the area. After the accreditation auditors expressed concern over the governance and cooperation between the five departments of the School of Media in 2007, the dean suggested they adopt sociocracy/dynamic governance.  Enrollment was declining, there were no cross-disciplinary degrees, and management styles varied significantly. The department heads began working with sociocracy consultant John Buck.

A year later, the accreditation auditors praised the School’s governance as “unconventional and successful… worthy of study by other schools.”  By 2010, the tuition revenue was up 10% when the University enrollment had fallen 1%. In 2012, it was 26% above 2011. The school was also able to attract $3.5 million in grants.

According to Dean Eddie Clift, [sociocracy] creates a culture of respect and provides a new way to look at problems:

[Sociocracy] allowed people to focus on the reasons they came to work here in the first place—education and innovation. We saw improved quality of life for the faculty, including better work/life balance. We know—through increasing student enrollment, and increasing student placements in the industry thanks to a clearer connection with the industry—that we are providing a valuable education for our students. And best of all for me, my faculty and chairs are so effective now; they’re confident and satisfied with their work. The School basically runs itself. That makes my job a pleasure!

Based on a case history by the Sociocracy Consulting Group, “Collaboration and Trust Among Departments: Woodbury University, School of Media, Culture, and Design.”

 

Living Well Community Care Home

Living Well Community Care Home is an award winning elder care facility in Bristol, VT. It was transitioning to sociocracy (dynamic governance) before 2005, working with John Buck.

In 2012, Sheella Mierson, sociocracy consultant, and Alana Kann, author, wrote a case study of Living Well’s use of sociocracy/dynamic governance and how it has changed their organization. The article is available online:

Got DG? Healthy Transformation in an Elder Care Community

(Living Well Community Care Home is now a part of Ethan Allen Residence in Burlington, VT.)